Adventures of a Lost Boy in Disneyland (Part 7): it’s a small double feature

This entry in the trip report is another two parter, but the connection between the two attractions won’t make very much sense at first.

The Disney Gallery was one of my favourite attractions when I first went to Disneyland. The converted apartment in New Orleans Square above the Pirates of the Caribbean is actually what got me into Imagineering to the extent I am through the Haunted Mansion exhibit that was being shown in the Gallery during the fall of 2004. The ability to see the concept art of an attraction that had always been one my favourites, to see how it was formed, to see what influenced what eventually became what we know as the Haunted Mansion was astounding, and then being able to buy a book chronicling the creation of the attraction (and the rather unfortunate film that was spawned from the underworld) was a novel concept in a world before Amazon completely changed how people bought things (and before Imagineering books were available on the shopping giant). All of this being said, it is very easy to understand that when seemingly closed for good in 2007 with no plans to reopen it anywhere else in the park, I was crestfallen.

The attraction was one that was exclusive only to Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland, so I would have to travel outside of the country to get my fix of a gallery of art from Imagineering, and that was something completely unfeasible at this point in time.

Flash forward to 2009, when the Bank of Main Street opened it’s vault to show off all of the artwork found inside in the new version of the Disney Gallery. When Disney announced that the Disney Gallery was returning to the park, I was naturally excited. Imagine how much that level of excitement jumped when we walked by the newly reopened gallery and saw that the exhibit was called “The Colors of Mary Blair.” It has been mentioned on the blog before that Mary Blair is one of my favourite artists, her style is wonderfully simplistic yet expressive and is made even better by her use of bright and vibrant colours. The exhibit covers both her work on various Disney films as well as the Grand Canyon Concourse at the Contemporary and her most famous work of all, it’s a small world.

The new Disney Gallery is a much better gallery than the old one as it was actually designed to be a gallery. There is a much larger amount of open space for people to mill about in, which also makes it easier for guests to move around the room to see the amazing pieces of artwork. The original Disney Gallery in New Orleans Square was designed to be an apartment for the Disney family, and the curators of the gallery decided that it would be a good idea to hang artwork in very small hallways that were obviously not intended to have numerous people in them at one time, and definitely not people stopping to look at a large amount of artwork. The gallery also flows much better now, with much better designed gallery spaces and more room for artwork. Overall, the closing of the Disney Gallery, while disappointing to see it go and equally disappointing to not be able to walk up to the Disney family apartment unless you win a night in the Dream Suite (yeah… good luck with that), it seems like it worked out for the better.

Now, onto the second part of our double feature.

When it was announced that it’s a small world would be opening at Hong Kong Disneyland, Disney announced that they would be making an alteration to the well established formula of the attraction. Regional changes to it’s a small world is not a new thing, as when the attraction opened at Disneyland Paris, more languages were added to the attraction all singing that obscenely catchy song, but this was something different. Disney was adding more Disney to the attraction in the form of Disney characters. Needless to say, people were confused and very hesitant of this change. Shortly after this was announced, it was announced that the original version at Disneyland would be closing down as so that the flume and boats could be replaced, and so new jets could be installed to help propel the boats better.

it’s a small world opened in April of 2008 at Hong Kong Disneyland the division between parties became a very different one with people either loving how the characters were handled in the Mary Blair style and how overall they aren’t obscenely noticeable, but other people did not like the changes and absolutely did not want them to come to an American park. The latter were in for a very disappointing surprise when Disney announced that these changes would be coming to America. I will have you know that I am not in the latter crowd, I very much enjoyed the changes.

The only problem that may come from these changes is the idea that when you ride the new version of the attraction for the first time, it becomes a giant game of find the Disney characters. This one cannot speak from experience as to whether this continues as I have only rode the new version of the attraction once, but if it does please comment below. Going back to the Disney characters, though, this is the kind of thing where when the added characters work, they really work. The Alice in Wonderland section in Great Britain works well because she was added into a place where she makes sense (also Mary Blair designed the look of that movie, so it would only be natural that Alice would fit), Aladdin and Jasmine in the Arabic section works because they just replaced one of the pre-existing flying carpets, Mulan works because she is flying a Mushu kite and doesn’t have a Mushu just sitting there, Ariel in the South Seas area works because she replaced one of the mermaids. Lilo works, but Stitch just looks out of place. The same can be said about the new America section that adds Woody, Jessie, and Bullseye. Their designs just don’t click with the rest of the attraction and they just look weird.

Honestly, the changes to the classic formula work for me. If they don’t work for you (or you just want to reaffirm my statements), please say so below!

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